ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — Atlanta’s Westside is now on the EPA’s national priority list to fix a lead contamination problem, and elected officials are calling on residents to help with the solution.

State Representative Mesha Mainor (D-District 56) described how lead contamination from paint previously used on older homes lies within the soil on Atlanta’s Westside, posing health risks for those living in the largely minority populated area. Reports show lead can especially impact children and anyone with a compromised immune system. “The levels are so high in this historic Westside area that it’s at the level of toxicity,” she said.

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It’s why the EPA has placed the Westside on the Superfund National Priority List to clean out the lead.

Mainor joined other lawmakers who worked over the summer on House Bill 1355 to address the issue. “It passed the House. It’s on the Senate,” she said, giving an update on the legislation.

Rosario Hernandez is the executive director of the Historic Westside Gardens and a Westside resident. She helped spearhead a movement that got the EPA involved when she participated in a 2018 Emory University research study showing high levels of lead in the area.

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“For the children that have already had the exposure, for the families that have lived here for over 50 years that are legacy residents, what is the situation there,” she said, indicating authorities have not focused enough on the dangers of lead exposure.

As of March 11, 2022, the EPA had sampled more than 950 properties in the area. Of that number, 377 tested above the maximum 400 milligrams per kilogram level and require clean up. So far, the EPA has cleaned up 116 properties, including Hernandez’s yard, but she says there’s still a lot of slag, which is said to produce lead, on her street where children play.

The EPA reportedly cannot test soil or remove slag from properties without permission from the property owners. However, locating some property owners and landlords is a challenge, and many tenants and homeowners are leery about the free soil testing.

“Everything that they take, they will put back at no cost to you. This is a no brainer. This is your health,” said Hernandez. She’s urging neighbors with any concerns about the process to contact the EPA and elected officials.

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For information on free soil testing, click here or call (678) 662-8603.